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sion in the Legislature prepared him a victory shrewd worldlings who take advantage of in a wider field, and after one of the most such times “to coin money," was the prospirited contests ever known, he left his prietor of a travelling menagerie, and he home for our national capital, with his soon found out that the multitude followed claims to a seat, to be contested before the Prentiss. Getting the list of that remarkaproper tribunal, the members of the House ble man's “ appointments,” he filled up his of Representatives.
own; and it was soon noticed, as a singular Prentiss's appearance in Congress was a coincidence, that the orator always "arrived triumph that was never accorded under the along with the other ‘lions.?” The reason same circumstances to any other individual. of this meeting was discovered, and the In his contest for his seat, there was created, “ boys” decided that Prentiss should " next as a matter of course, a strong sympathy in time” speak from the top of the lion's cage. his favor among his political partisans ; but Never was the menagerie more crowded. when he rose to defend his rights against all At the proper time, the candidate gratified combatants, when he poured forth bis in- bis constituents, and mounted his singular dignant feelings at the wrong he conceived rostrum. I was told by a person, who prowas to be inflicted upon his State, by his re- fessed to be an eye-witness, that the whole jection, he did it with an eloquence rarely affair presented a singular mixture of the equalled in the halls of Congress, and per- terrible and the comical. Prentiss was, as haps, the subject considered, never to be usual, eloquent, and, as if ignorant of the surpassed. Prentiss at once ranked among novel circumstances with which he was surthe great minds of Washington, as one en- rounded, went deeply into the matter in hand, titled to the highest honor as an orator and his election. For a while, the audience and statesman. Rejected by the casting vote of the animals were quiet—the former listenthe Speaker, (Mr. Polk,) Prentiss returned to ing, the latter eyeing the speaker with grave the theatre of his triumphs and laid his case intensity. The first burst of applause elecbefore the people. Mississippi was then one trified the menagerie; the elephant threw his Congressional district, and he went through trunk into the air, and echoed back the its vast territory appealing for justice. Pity noise, while the tigers and bears significantly indeed that some ready writer had not fol- growled. On went Prentiss, and as each lowed him, and recorded the brightest page peculiar animal vented his rage or approbain his eventful history.
tion, he most ingeniously wrought in his It was during this exciting canvass that habits, as a fac-simile of some map or pasPrentiss displayed his most extraordinary sion. In the meanwhile, the stately king power of mind and endurance of body. As of beasts, who had been quietly treading we have already hinted, he had the whole the mazes of his prison, became alarmed at State to canvass, and the magnitude of the the footsteps over his head, and placing his work seemed just what he desired. mouth upon the floor of his cage, made
From what I have learned from anecdotes, every thing shake by his terrible roar. This, that canvass must have presented some joined with the already excited feelings of the scenes combining the highest mental and audience, caused the ladies to shriek, and a physical exertion that was ever witnessed in fearful commotion for a moment followed. the world. Prentiss was in perfect health, Prentiss, equal to every occasion, changed and in the first blush of success, and it can- his tone and manner; he commenced a not be doubted that his best efforts of oratory playful strain, and introduced the fox, the were then made, and now live recorded only jackal, and hyena, and capped the climax in the fading memories of his hearers. An by likening some well-known political opincident illustrative of the time is remem- ponent to a grave baboon that presided bered, that may bear repeating.
over the “cage with monkeys." The reThe whole State of Mississippi was alive semblance was instantly recognized, and with excitement: for the moment, she felt bursts of laughter followed, that literally set that her sovereign dignity had been trifled many into convulsions. The baboon, all with, and that her reputation demanded the unconscious of the attention he was attractreturn of Prentiss to Congress. Crowds ing, suddenly assumed a grimace, and then followed him from place to place, making a a serious face, when Prentiss exclaimed: gala time of weeks together. Among the "I see, my fine fellow, that your feelings
are hurt by my unjust comparison; and I and his fierce blood-hounds buried their muzzles humbly beg your pardon.” The effect of in the unfortunate victims of his wrath." all this may be vaguely imagined, but it With Prentiss, these dashing figures were cannot be described.
given with a force such as Charles Kemble He was returned again to Congress. The would have envied; the clarion notes of the very difficulties he had to contend with Scottish chieftain could not have been more only developed his character, as he became thrilling to his followers' ears, than were the the" lion of the house." Public dinners fine intonations of the voice of Prentiss to were given him, at which vied in doing him bis hearers, so much beauty was there in honor the Clays, Websters and Mangums his style. The following passages are sinof our Senate, and the leading minds of the gularly characteristic:Lower House. On these festive occasions, no one had a more ready wit, a more polished for like the the locusts of Egypt they plagued
“Then were the saturnalia of the office-holders, manner, than Prentiss. To the world he the land. Few dared to whisper of compunctions seemed absorbed in the adulation of the or defalcations. Patronage waved like a hugo hour, yet in the quiet hours of night he magnet over the land, and demagogues, like iron found time, in voluminous correspondence filings, attracted by a law of their nature, gathwith his " beloved mother and sisters,” to have given you but three or four cases of defalca
ered and clustered around its poles. * * * Sir, I speak of the scenes around him, and seems tions; would time permit I could give you a hunto blush for the egotism of the recital of his dred. Like the fair Sultana of the Oriental legends, triumphs, which he says he only records I could go on for a thousand and one nights; and because it might give some pleasure to “his even as in these eastern stories, so in the chroni
cles of the office-holders, the tale would ever be of dear friends at home.”
heaps of gold, massive ingots, uncounted riches. The prominent political subject before Why, Aladdin's wonderful lamp is as nothing to Congress when Prentiss was a member, it
. They seem to possess the identical cap of (1838,) was the “ defalcations of certain
Fortunatus ; some wish for fifty thousand dollars, ernment officers." His speech on “ Harris's
some for a hundred thousand, and some for a
million, and behold it lies in glittering heaps before correspondence” is imperfectly reported in them. Not even the journals, but there is enough about it to
• The gorgeous East, with richest hand, show the remarkable peculiarities of the Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,' author. The defalcation of public officers
in such profuse abundance, as does this adminis was his theme. He rose, his mind evidently tration upon its followers. Pizarro held not forth teeming with a late perusal of the works of more dazzling lures to his robber band, when he Scott, and his favorite Sacred Volume. I led them to the conquest of the Children of the
Sun.'” can trace the character of his reading, and
almost that had particularly Speaking of the Sub-treasury, he used attracted his attention. I find his speech, the following comparison, which more than which is far from being equal to a hundred any other, perhaps, illustrates the completethat were never noticed beyond the fleeting ness of his figures :hour of their delivery, crowded with figures, all beautiful , but in many instances lacking like the Turks, with jealous care its goldeu harem;
“Sir, this Government may determine to watch, that depth of thought for which he was so but it will seek in vain for the financial eunuchs, remarkable. To me it sounded, when I who have the power to guard without the wish to read it, more like his conversation when he enjoy.” was warmed up by social intercourse, than
To the proposition to make up the losses like a speech.
of Government by retrenchment, he said :Speaking of General Jackson's command over his party, he said,
“Well, sir, what are these retrenchments ? Pensions, barbors and light-houses. Yes, sir, these
are recommended as proper subjects for retrench. "That the old hero bad but to blow his whistle, ment. First of all, the scarred veterans of the and
Revolution are to be deprived of a portion of the Instant from copse and heath arose
scanty pittance doled out to them by the cold Bonnets and spears and bended bows;'
charity of the country. How many of them will
you have to send forth as beggars on the very soil while his followers, like those of Roderick Dhu, which they have wrenched from the hand of tyranstarted in every direction, ready and eager to per ny, to make up the amount of even one of these orm his bidding. He had but to point his finger, 1 splendid robberies? How many barbors will it
take-those improvements dedicated no less to the different characters alluded to in Mr. humanity than to interest--those nests of com- Prentiss' speech. The Mississippians, almerce to which the winged birds of the ocean may though more or less injured, escaped, but not flock in safety? How many light-houses will it take? How many of those bright eyes of the before they had killed two of the friends of ocean, as my friend from Virginia beautifully calls the tailor, while the person for whom they them, are to be plucked out ! How many of sacrificed their lives cut off” by the those faithful sentinels, who stand along the coast, crowd, “ and the whole occurred so quickly and, peering far out in the darkness, give timely warning to the hardy máriner where the lee shore that he had not time to do any thing." threatens; how many of these, I ask, are to be
The Mississippians were strangers in Louisdischarged from their humane service? Why, the ville; the tailor and the deceased were subproposition is almost infamous. I should as soon stantial men, highly respectable in their conwish to put out the stars of heaven. . Sir, my nections, and in command of money and blood boils at the cold-blooded atrocity with which this administration proposes thus to sacrifice the influence. The dead were remembered for very family jewels of the country, to pay for the their virtues, and lauded for the devotion consequences of our own profligacy.”
they displayed in endeavoring to avenge the
presumed wrongs done a friend. The exciteThe celebrated" Wilkinson trial," although inent following the fight ran higlı among not as remarkable as many others engaged the people, and the Mississippians found the in by Mr. Prentiss, has obtained a wide- jail à necessary defense against the crowd spread notoriety, from the fact that it was re- that for a while swayed in tumultuous waves ported, and therefore more perfectly brought in its vicinity. But the substantial citizens before the public. The particulars were maintained the dignity of the laws, and the nearly these : Some time in December, 1838, Mississippians were peaceably brought bethree gentlemen of the highest social posi- fore the proper tribunal, recognizances were tion in Mississippi, and of a professional rep- taken, a change of venue obtained, and in a atation, stopped at the Galt House, Louis- little over three months after the fatal meetville. One of the party ordered from a ing at the Galt House, the trial was had at fashionable tailor a suit of clothes, which, Harrodsburg. upon being tried on in the store, was found The three Mississippians were included in unsatisfactory by his friends; and upon the the indictment; consequently the defense expression of this dissatisfaction arose a con- rested upon the proof of a conspiracy on the test between the Mississippians and the tailor, part of the tailor and his friends to kill or at which blows were given and received; but degrade the Mississippians, which justified the parties separated for the time, without the latter named in defending themselves to any material personal injury to each other. the death, and this justification bad to be The tailor, attacked in his own shop, and drawn from the witnesses in a mass. feeling himself deeply wronged, proceeded The examination of the witnesses, as reto the “ Police Court” for warrants, but was ported in the printed trial, is characteristic obliged to go to the Galt House for the names of similar proceedings, except that many of of the offenders. On his way, he told the the persons concerned in the foray were men circumstances of what he conceived to be of marked habits and original character : his unjust treatment to his friends, and soon they therefore afforded Mr. Prentiss a fine elicited a strong feeling of sympathy, par- field for his remarkable power to analyze. ticularly among that class of persons who, The consequence is, that the whole trial, full of generous impulses, are rather thought- under his magic influence, becomes like a less, and " like a spree."
perfectly conceived play, having every part Whatever might have been the original sustained ; mingling up subdued humor with intention of the tailor and his friends, on infinite pathos. The characters seem comgoing to the Galt House, the result was one plete, and perform their parts to the very of the most fearful of tragedies. The Mis- consummation, as if but plastic heroes in his sissippians, presuming an attack, were on hands. There is the opening act at the their guard when the tailor and his friends tailor's store; then the preliminary excitecame to the hotel; and when the Mississip- ment in the streets, the fearful utterings of pians on their way to supper entered the revenge, and the comical braggadocia of " Bill * bar-room," they were recognized, and a Holmes” and his confederates; then the general mêlée commenced, in which figured thrilling challenges between the principal
parties; the appearance of the three” in has won his fair proportion of victories. But the bar-room ; the ruşh—the fight—the Mr. Prentiss on this occasion not only paradeath--the trial and the acquittal. Massin- lyzed the prosecution—not only fortified the ger never conceived any thing finer ; and defense—but he seemed to urge the strongPrentiss, in the spirit of the old bard, wor- est possible points against the cause of his thily performed his work.
clients, only to answer them with increased The court-house in which the trial took force, and destroy them for ever. place was crowded to overflowing, and among therefore that the prosecution, ably as it was the audience were to be seen nearly two conducted, seemed to be in a great degree hundred ladies, drawn to the scene by the fatiguing to the jury and the audience, with fascinating fame of Mr. Prentiss. That he recapitulations of things already more pleasshould have been inspired with unusual feel antly or more terribly urged by Mr. Prentiss. ing is not surprising, for his clients were his His allusion to his friend Judge Wilkinson personal friends, and the bright eyes of a is a fine specimen of his style. He said:portion of his auditory were of themselves a Promethean fire to even less enthusiastic “I regret to behold a valued and cherished spirits than his. His speech throughout was ordeals
ever invented to try the human feelings or
friend passing through one of the most terrible listened to with almost painful interest; and test the human character; an ordeal through which, in spite of the place and the circumstances, I do not doubt, he will pass triumphantly and honthose that heard would occasionally give orably, without leaving one blot or stain upon the utterance to pent-up feelings that refused to fair fame that has been so long his rightful portion;
but through which he cannot pass unscathed in be controlled.
his sensibilities and feelings. The lightning scar The Hon. Benjamin Hardin, “ the oppos- will remain upon his heart; and public justice ing counsel,” a man of vast experience and herself cannot, even though by acclamation through self-control, seemed to feel that the judg- your mouths she proclaims his innocence, ever heal ments of the jury and court were affected the wounds inflicted by this fierce and unrelenting
prosecution, urged on as it has been by the demons by what they had heard, and he pays
of revenge and avarice.” highest possible compliment to Mr. Prentiss in the opening of his reply. Turning to the Of the excitement before the trial he drew jury, he said :
the following vivid picture : “ Whatever may be your feelings, you will, I
“ It is not unknown to you, that upon the occuram sure, keep in mind that you are bound to exercise your reason, and that you owe a duty of no
rence of the events, the character of which you ordinary responsibility to yourselves, your charac- are about to try, great tumult and excitement ters, and your country. That duty is a sacred prevailed in the city of Louisville. Passion and trust reposed in you, which you cannot weigh ular feeling was roused into madness. It was with
prejudice poured poison into the public ear. Poplightly without injury to yourselves as well as the utmost difficulty that the strong arm of the wrong to others. Nor must you surrender up your constituted authorities wrenched the victims from reason to your passions, and allow yourselves to the hands of an infuriated mob. Even the thick be carried away by the shout of applause from a walls of the prison hardly afforded protection to fashionable audience, as if you were in a theatre, the accused. Crouched and shivering upon the where a Junius Brutus Booth and a Miss Ellen cold floor of their gloomy dungeon, they listened Tree exhibit the practised art of controlling the to the
footsteps of the gathering crowds; and ever feelings, and successfully eliciting the noisy plan and anop, the winter wind that played melancholy dits of excitement. This is not a theatre ; this music through the rusty grates, was drowned by trial is not a farce; nor are you seated on those the fierce howling of the human wolves, who benches for amusement. This, gentlemen, is a solemn court of justice; a solemn tribunal, in which prowled and bayed around their place of refuge, your Judge, presiding with becoming dignity, rep
greedy and thirsting for blood. resents the majesty of the law, and in which you away slander and falsehood upon its wings. Even
Every breeze that swept over the city bore are expected to deliberate with becoming gravity the public press, though I doubt not unwittingly, upon circumstances of awful import."
joined in the work of injustice. The misrepresen
tations of the prosecutor and his friends became No ordinary impression on the part of a the public history of the transaction; and from one jury would have called forth these remarks end of the Union to the other, these defendants from the cool-headed and talented Ben Har- were held up to public gaze and public execration din, a counsellor who has in a long life of as foul, unmanly murderers, and that too before arduous and important practice grappled or any opportunity been afforded them for saying
any judicial investigation whatever had occurred, with the giant intellects of Kentucky, and a single word in their defense.”
One of the witnesses, although “he fired | livered with a force that made strong men a pistol,” and “knocked one of the defend- pale with horror, and for a moment look as ants down,” gave in his testimony in a man- if the fearful tragedy of murder was tanginer that indicated such a perfect indifference bly enacted before their eyes. to the shedding of blood and willingness to get into a fight, that it afforded a fine “But, gentlemen of the jury,” said he, with an opportunity for Prentiss's playfulness, and earnestness that thrilled through every heart, “ alhe treats this witness as follows:
though my clients are free from the charge of shedding blood, there is a murderer, and, strange to
say, his name appears upon the indictment, not as “Surely Mr.
must be the knight-errant of a criminal, but as prosecutor. His garments are the age; the Don Quixote of the West; the par- | wet with the blood of those upon whose deaths agon of modern chivalry. He fights, not from the you hold this solemn inquest." Yonder he sits, base desire of vengeance, nor from the sordid love állaying for a moment the hunger of that fierce of gold; not even from patriotism or friendship; vulture, Conscience, by casting before it the food but from a higher and a loftier sentiment; from his of pretended regret, and false, but apparent eagerpure, ardent, disinterested, unsophisticated love of ness for justice. He hopes to appease the manes glorious strife. He ósmelleth the battle afar off, of his slaughtered victims—victims to his falseand to the sound of the trumpet he saith, Hal hal hood and treachery-by sacrificing upon their To him
graves a hecatomb of innocent men. By base “There is something of pride in the perilous hour, misrepresentations of the conduct of the defendWhate'er be the shape in which death may lower ; ants, he induced his imprudent friends to attempt For fame is there, to tell who bleeds,
a vindication of his pretended wrongs, by violence And honor's eye on daring deeds.'
and bloodshed. His clansmen gathered at his call, " You have heard, gentlemen, of the bright, warm and followed him for vengeance; but when the isles which gem the oriental seas, and are kissed fight began, and the keen weapons clashed in the by the fiery sun of the tropics; where the clove, sharp conflict—where was the wordy warrior the cinnamon, and the nutmeg grow; where the Ay,
• Where was Roderick then ? No blast torrid atmosphere is oppressed with a delicious upon his bugle horn' encouraged his companions but fierce and intoxicating influence. There the as they were laying down their lives in his quarspirit of man partakes of the same spicy qualities rel; no gleam of his dagger indicated a desire to which distinguish the productions of the soil. avenge their fall; with treacherous cowardice he Even as the rinds of their fruits split open with left them to their fate, and all his vaunted courage nature's rich excess, so do the human passions burst ended in ignominious flight. forth with an overwhelming violence and prodi- "Sad and gloomy is the path that lies before gality unknown till now, in our cold, ungentle him. You will in a few moments dash, untasted, clime. There, in the islands of Java, Sumatra, from his lips the sweet cup of revenge; to quaff the Malaccas, and others of the same latitude, whose intoxicating contents he has paid a price cases similar to that of Mr. are of fre- that would have purchased the goblet of the queut occurrence. In those countries it is called Egyptian queen. I behold gathering around him, running a muck.' An individual becomes so full thick and fast, dark and corroding cares. That of fight that he can no longer contain it; accord-face, which looks so ruddy, and even now is flushed ingly, he arms himself with a species of dagger, with shame and conscious guilt, will from this day very similar to that from which Mr. wiped grow pale, until the craven blood shall refuse to the blood with his pocket handkerchief, and rush- visit his haggard cheek. In his broken and dising into the public streets, wounds and slays in- torted sleep his dreams will be more fearful than discriminately among the crowd. It is true, that those of the 'false, perjured Clarence ;' and this gallant exploit always results in the death of around his waking pillow, in the deep hour of the person performing it; the people of the coun- night, will flit the ghosts of Meeks and of Rothtry entertaining a foolish notion that it is too dan well, shrieking their curses in his shrinking ear. gerous and expensive a mode of cultivating national “Upon his head rests not only all the blood shed bravery. But in the present instance, I trust this in this unfortunate strife, but also the soul-killing rule will be relaxed. Mr. is the only speci- crime of perjury; for, surely as he lives, did the men we possess of this peculiar habit of the spice words of craft and falsehood fall from his lips, ere islands, and he should be preserved as a curiosity.” they were bardly loosened (from the holy volume.
But I dismiss him, and do consign him to the Every kind of talent seems to be dis- furies, trusting, in all charity, that the terrible played in this masterly speech, which can of a guilty conscience will be considered in bis
punishment he must suffer from the scorpion-lash only be fully appreciated by reading the trial last account." entire. From the commencement to the end there is one continued series of beauti- It was soon after Mr. Prentiss returned ful imagery, or the evidence of successful from Kentucky that I had the pleasure of blows given to the prosecution. Mr. Pren- first seeing him. In his personal appeartiss never falters, and finally closes with the ance he was eminently handsome, and yet terrible climax quoted below, which he de- eminently manly. Although of medium NEW SERIES.